Are you ready for Hell on Earth?

Hell on Earth has officially begun! Well, in my head at least. In my head, and on my computer.

I started Hell’s Hunters less than a week ago, and I’m already over 10,000 words in. I’m hitting a good stride, and I love the flow so far. I even went so far as to set the trilogy up for preorder a little early! (Books 1 and 3 are available for preorder, but there’s some technical difficult with Book 2 being stuck in a certain part of the process, so I have to wait to hear back from customer support on how to fix that.)

I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me if I’m to make the preorder dates I put in, but I’m confident that I can do it. I just have to focus. Focus, and fix Book 2’s technical issue.

It’s exciting to “see” the established characters from the Bargains Struck trilogy through each others’ eyes. Cherry, an only child, is baffled by Elena and Callie’s sisterly dynamic, though they’re just acting the same as they did in Dealing with Demons. I kinda love experiencing my own characters through the other characters’ perspectives.

It would help if I’d stop getting distracted. LOL I just fugued out for a minute and was playing with graphics instead of, y’know, working on the story. I’ve never been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD, but sometimes I wonder. LOL

I’m excited to bring my readers back to Nowhere, North Carolina, for this apocalyptic event!

Ravenous

I’d like to say I’ve just been hungry.

I’d like to say I can stop any time I want.

But who am I kidding?

I eat because I’m home alone.

I eat because I’m bored.

I eat because I’m frustrated.

I eat because I’m depressed.

I eat because I don’t know what the fuck I want to eat.

I eat for every reason except hunger.

I’m not hungry.

I’m actually quite over full.

I still eat.

I can’t even claim that I’m trying to stick to keto anymore,

Because my low-carb quantities are not so low.

I ate a whole carton of low-carb ice cream in under a day.

Because I wanted something sweet.

Because I wanted something cold when I was hot.

Because I wanted something.

I don’t know what my soul is ravenous for.

I don’t know what will fill it.

Not cheese.

Or eggs.

Or coffee.

Or pickles.

Or peanut butter.

Nothing.

No food can fill this void.

But what can?

Maybe if I find the answer,

I’ll be able to stop.

But until then,

I guess I’ll just keep eating.

Switching Gears

For the past six months or so, it’s been a slew of romances for me, writing-wise. I have churned out three novellas and three novels, all romance…and now that I’m back to the Abnormalverse, I’m finding it hard to get back in the dystopian/sci-fi frame of mind.

Example one: I almost wrote a detailed sex scene in the first chapter. Okay for a romance sequel, sure, but for characters in the middle of a dystopian war? Yeah, no. Had to go back and rework that chapter, plus add in at least one more, before I can let sexy fun times happen.

Example two: I’m skipping over important details and such when it comes to the war, which is not good. Yes, it’s good to have character development, but I also need to set the scene for why the characters in question need to develop.

I’ll get back into it. I’ll get back my voice. I just have to focus.

Problem is, sneaky depression and anxiety are creeping up and choking me at the moment. They come hot on the heels of my manic completion of Dealing with Demons, and they suck. I can’t seem to motivate myself to really buckle down on this new WIP.

Remember the cool barometer my word count tracker made for DWD? Well, check out this WIP’s tracker:

Yeah, I had a couple okay days once I finally got started, but…..yep. See that flatline there? Or the spattering of days where I got less than 400 words in? Yeah. That’s the depression and anxiety.

I’m hoping the work-related anxiety eases up a bit after next week. I’m still “in charge” for six more weekdays–well, five, I guess, since I have an off day next week–then the real clinic manager is back from maternity leave. I. Cannot. WAIT. I’m so exhausted, physically, mentally, and emotionally. I’m just fucking drained.

Life-related anxiety probably won’t settle down for a couple of weeks still, too. I have some diagnostic testing to get done next week. Probably nothing major, but there’s that nagging “What if” part in the back of my brain that won’t shut the fuck up. Seriously, brain. Stop.

The good thing in all this is I have some great accountability partners, and hopefully this weekend we can do some international Zooming and get some progress on our collective works-in-progress. We’re all stuck to some degree, and we hope that by encouraging each other we can get unstuck. Or something. Anyway, it’s good comraderie. (My computer is telling me I misspelled that word. I don’t care if I did.)

Clare, Eli, and Harper had better get their acts together soon. I have words to write and stories to tell.

I write to halt the demons in my head

I write when life is boring

I write when life is tough

I write when my emotions are soaring

I write when I can’t feel enough

I write to escape the daily grind

I write to vacate reality

I write to immerse inside my mind

I write to maintain my sanity

I write for all these reasons and more

I write to fill my soul

I write because my real life’s a bore

I write to play a role

With words I can be anyone

With words I can be someone else

With words I can be all and no one

With words I can find my true self

With words I can dismiss the bad in life

With words I can enhance the good

With words I can let things pass me by

With words I can temper my mood

With words I can build such high towers

With words I can dig such deep holes

With words I can summon great powers

With words I can other minds mold

When I write, all the things have more meaning

When I write, I don’t feel quite so dense

When I write, I find strength even when leaning

When I write, all my muscles unclench

When I write, the world falls away

When I write, a new world begins

When I write, I can have my own way

When I write, I banish all sins

When I write, I build and I form

When I write, I create from the void

When I write, I abandon the norm

When I write, I feel overjoyed

I wish I could write every day

I wish I could write all night long

I wish I could write for the pay

I wish I could write to right wrongs

I wish I could write all my feelings

I wish I could write all my words

I wish I could write to bring healing

I wish I could write and be heard

I wish I could write for a living

I wish I could write for my bread

I wish I could write what is missing

I wish I could write ’til I’m dead

Giving a Voice to My Characters…and Others’

Well, I have officially auditioned for my first narrator job. It’s with my publishing company, but not for one of my titles…yet.

My good friend and fellow author Angelique Jordonna enjoyed my live read of the first few minutes of her first novel DANI that she asked me to audition. She actually asked a few times. Okay–a lot. She bugged me until I finally did it.

If it works out with DANI, I might venture into narrating my own novels. But which one to start with? I could always start with WHISPERS OF DEATH, but I have so many now! Maybe I’ll start with PACT WITH THE PACK, to kick off the HELL ON EARTH series that’s starting next year. What? You haven’t heard about HELL ON EARTH? That’s okay–you will. 😉

FED BY THE FAE releases tomorrow, and I’m both excited and anxious. The preorder numbers have been low in comparison to my last two releases, but I also have been kind of slacking on promotion. I’ll have to ramp things up for DEALING WITH DEMONS, the third BARGAINS STRUCK book, which ties all three books together in the end and leads into HELL ON EARTH.

Yes, being the cover fanatic that I am, I’ve already designed the covers for all three HELL ON EARTH books! You guys are in for a steamy, action-packed, wild-as-fuck ride in this trilogy. And, of course, as with the BARGAINS STRUCK books, they are all reverse harem stories.

Before that, however, I need to finish the fourth ABNORMAL book, which I started last week. DEAD CITIES RISING is the follow-up to FIGHT THE LIGHT, which has been accepted by RhetAskew Publishing but not been through edits yet. I’m a rebel, though, a wild card, and I’m gonna just write the next book before I see what changes the publisher wants on Book 3. LOL!

I hope hope HOPE that ESCAPING THE LIGHT gets released this year, but the signs are not good. 🙁 Apparently the editor assigned to get the manuscript formatted has been, er, tending to other things. In other words, she took on a job with a publisher but is prioritizing her own personal clients’ work, despite the fact that I am, technically, a client of hers through RA. Kinda annoyed, especially when I see her hawking her services in multiple author groups, but I keep my mouth shut. That’s not going to help matters, I’m sure, if I pitch a fit.

Well, I guess I should get myself ready for either writing or making up graphics for release day or….something productive. LOL

Tricksy Brainses

“No shit, there I was…”

…That’s how some tales start, and that’s kinda how this one begins. I finally had a day off from work to finish my latest draft, a whole day with few interruptions and near-total focus. When I cranked out almost 20% of a novel in just over twenty-four hours, I just assumed it was the lack of Day Job Stress that attributed to my productivity. I figured hey, I get a day off and my Muse can breathe!

Guess what?

It wasn’t necessarily the Muse.

Nope. That tricksy brain of mine was on overdrive, deep in a bout of mania that’s probably been ongoing for months, if I take the time to step back and assess my symptoms.

Yeah, my brain tricked me again. Made me think I was doing well, that I was hanging on okay, that I was getting by. But alas, my brain lied, and, after a visit this morning with my psychiatrist, I have to up one of my meds and see if that helps.

I should’ve known. The endless nights with five hours of broken sleep (or fewer), the almost-daily panic attacks, the way I churned out three novels in less time than it usually takes me to muddle through half of one–all the signs were there. My brain just played a little game of keep-away with the symptoms, distracting me with that mania-fueled euphoria to convince me I was really okay and not in the full throes of an episode.

Not that I was euphoric the whole time. No, you see, with bipolar disorder, you can sometimes get “mixed” episodes. That means you get all the revving up of the mania combined with the crushing depression, simultaneously! Isn’t that grand?

It’s too bad I cleared out the final graph of my word counts for my latest project before I wrote this, because it was basically a literal graphic depiction of my mental health over the course of the past couple of months. The picture was fascinating. I’ll show you a partial picture, a screenshot taken before I finished the draft, but sadly, I don’t have a picture of the FINAL graph, the one where I typed over 11,000 words in a little more than a day. Take a look at my assessment of my mental state over time:

It’s kind of fascinating, from a psychological and academic standpoint. Looking at the graph through analytical eyes, I can actually visually see the points where I was either too depressed to write or too exhausted from my day job’s stress–or both at once. I can also see the points where I was hyperproductive, where I’d power through whole chapters in a single bound and then some. It’s cool, in a creepy way. It’s like, my writing productivity can be almost a barometer for my mental health.

Might be worth making a note of this for later. Y’know, snap a screenshot of my graph every so often to see if I’m mentally stable or all over the place. If I was a more scientific or intellectual person, I might conduct a self-study.

A few days ago, October 10, was World Mental Health Day. You’d think with all the memes and posts about it coming across my various social media feeds, I would’ve figured things out sooner. Maybe with my new “mental health meter,” I can “see” episodes coming sooner and mitigate the damage.

The brain can be a tricky thing. It plays games with you, makes you think you’re doing okay when maybe you’re really not.

Pay attention to your mental health, folks. Don’t let something this massive sneak by when you can do something about it.

Listing in the right direction

Well, the numbers are in, and so is the official “verdict”: Wicked Souls: A Limited Edition Reverse Harem Romance Collection has made the USA Today Bestseller List!

What does that mean for yours truly and the Abnormalverse? Well, a couple of things, actually…

First off, I get bragging rights. I mean, yeah, I was one of dozens of authors in the anthology, but still–USA Today Best-seller over here!! Check out that beautiful Facebook frame on my profile picture:

I earned that! I’m still blown away by it, but yeah, that’s me!

Another thing about this list accomplishment: the Abnormalverse now has a USA Today Best-selling story in it. Fuck yes!

Oh, and the best part? We at Wicked Souls made motherfucking history with this set! How is that, you ask? Well, we just happen to be the first-ever completely reverse harem anthology to make the list. First. Ever. Let that sink in. Not only did we do the thing for the first time, but the hope is that we’ve paved the way for other reverse harem authors and sets to get up there and hit that high note.

Did I maybe log onto my computer almost the second I got home and add “USA Today Best-selling Author” to every single solitary cover file I’ve got on my laptop? You bet your sweet ass I did! Did I post in numerous social media outlets about it? Fuck yeah I did! Am I done adding that USAT accolade to all the things? Nope. Not yet. There’s still my Amazon author profile, Goodreads, Bookbub….I’ve got my work cut out for me!

It looks damn sexy on those covers, too….Just check this out:

*Sigh* So, so pretty.

That reminds me, I gotta hop on over to Amazon and update some covers in the system…

I’ll be giddy as fuck for a while over this! Lol

Laying it on thick

There are people you consider friends. There are people who are more acquaintances.

Then there are the wolves in sheep’s clothing, the “friends” who will publicly shame you on social media for not accepting their hashtag “challenge.”

Just tagging me in that post is a form of bullying, of laying on the peer pressure to achieve your desired agenda.

Well guess what?

I ain’t playing that game.

That’s right. I’m not going to post this ridiculous hashtag because someone decided to tag me in their post. What do I have to prove, anyway? And WHY did this person decide I needed to prove it? Are they trying to insinuate that if I don’t do their challenge then I’m automatically a terrible person? Because I’ll tell you, regardless of my personal political, moral, or ethical stance, my primary reaction to being pressured into something, to being pushed, is to push back.

I won’t post the hashtag. Not here, not on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter. I have nothing to prove. If you think that lowly of me, then you clearly don’t know me.

I’m trying not to let my knee-jerk anger goad me into something more heated than this post. I want to call out the bully, to share the shame, but I won’t. I simply untagged myself and hid it from my timeline.

I have had a bad day. The last thing I need is to be accused, directly or not, of being a bad person on top of my shitty day.

I’m not posting that hashtag. Make of it what you will.

I didn’t ask for the tag. I never have asked to be dragged into political agendas.

You can claim it’s a human rights issue, you can claim whatever you want, but pressuring and shaming people to elicit a desired response is damn near as despicable as the one they’re condemning. (And that’s saying a LOT.)

Aiming High

Well, here goes nothing!

Today’s the release of the first list-aiming box set I’ve participated in. I’m excited, but nervous, but excited…but also nervous.

What is a “list-aiming” set, you ask? Well, it’s simple: a bunch of authors get together, write stories around a central theme, and then they put it on a long pre-order and promote the ever-living hell out of it in the hopes of selling enough copies to make the USA Today Bestseller List.

What does that take? A few things: at least 5,000 Amazon sales, and at least 500 sales in at least two different non-Amazon platforms.

Are we there? Not yet. But it just released today, and there are tons of marketing dollars in the works promoting this puppy, as well as authors galore, and a few personal assistants. From what I understand, the first week after release is crucial to the success of the set.

This set opportunity kind of fell into my lap. The editor-in-chief at RhetAskew, my publisher for the Abnormal series, joined the set, and she thought the theme–All Hallow’s Eve reverse harem–fit with the now-dubbed Abnormalverse. She wanted to co-write a novella with me that takes place in the Abnormalverse to put in the set, and thus Witching Hour: The Stroke of Three was born!

Witching Hour is just one of more than thirty stories in the Wicked Souls anthology, but it’s one that I’m proud of. It was my first foray into reverse harem (hell, it was the first I’d ever heard of reverse harem!), and it was the beginning of an expansion of the Abnormalverse beyond just the core series.

My only issue is that, due to COVID, RhetAskew has had a lot of slow-downs in production, which means that Escaping the Light, the second Abnormal novel, is delayed…and Witching Hour takes place after the events in ETL.

Cue facepalm.

Okay, so Witching Hour has some spoilers in it…Oops. By the time I realized ETL wasn’t being released until later this year at the earliest (possibly next year), it was pretty much too late to do a total rewrite. It is what it is, I guess. I mean, I don’t blame RhetAskew, because they’re a small publisher and they have limited resources to work with. It’s just gonna be spoiler-y.

Speaking of spoilers, I suppose I could include a little teaser here….Y’know, a little incentive to click on the Wicked Souls link and help a sister out, right? 😉

Here goes:

Vinnie’s in tears as he tries again. “Please, Ky. Let me take it. Sam and Hal can fix you up, and I’ll take this to Eli. I’ll get it there, I promise; I won’t dump it somewhere in the desert. I’ll get it to Eli or die trying.”

“No! I don’t want you to die, Vin.” It’s my turn to cry, but I’m not sure which pain is worse: the physical pain from my injuries, or the emotional pain at the thought of Vinnie sacrificing himself for me.

There’s rustling and rattling going on while Vin and I argue, and I don’t realize it’s the sounds of Hal rifling through the medkit until he injects me with something.

…[What was that?]… I ask. …[What did you give me?]…

“It’s anesthetic,” he says aloud. “Carol’s trying, but she’s not alive; her telepathy is as ethereal as the rest of her.”

My muscles release some of the tension they’ve been holding; I struggle to maintain my grip on the stasis pod. Vinnie takes my wrist and tugs, but he’s too distraught to break my hold. We end up tangled together on the ground, broken and sobbing, and I wish I could tell him it’s going to be okay.

It’s not going to be okay, though. I’ve failed. We’ll never make it to Eli in time now. There’s only one thing left for me to do.

I open my eyes and look up at the desert night sky above me. Even with the light of the full moon, the stars are visible. No clouds or smog out here to obstruct my view. I take slow, deep breaths until I think I’m stable enough to move.

“Vin,” I say, “get out of here. Take Sam and Hal and go.”

“I’m trying. You won’t let go of the pod.”

I try to keep my voice firm but soft. “I didn’t say ‘take the pod and go.’ I said to take the others and go.”

Want to know what’s going on? Buy the Wicked Souls anthology now, for just 99 cents, and get reading!

T-Minus 30 minutes and counting

Well, here goes. In half an hour (give or take a few minutes), I’ll be on my way to the day job to be “in charge” for the next six to eight weeks while the new clinic manager is on maternity leave.

“Dread” seems too mild a word for what I feel. I mean, I know we have a good, hard-working team for the most part, but I just have this uneasy feeling that something major will go wrong at some point. Something I will have to handle, something that will crack my facade of competence.

On top of that, I’m starting a new rheumatology treatment tomorrow. Infusions, which will be an hour long, in a location that’s an hour and a half from where I live and work, and, yeah, I’ll have to drive straight to work from these infusions when I’m done. One tomorrow, one two weeks after that, then either monthly or every two months depending on how things go, I guess. Eight o’clock check in times each time, to ensure that I can still make it to the office in time to get some work done.

Some say change is good, but this seems excessive. I mean, new work routines on top of new treatments on top of all the things I’ve already got going on…It’s gonna be a lot.

My hope is that I maintain my sanity throughout this time. I think if I can just hold on through the maternity leave, I can tough out most anything that’s thrown at me. Or something. Regardless, a lot is riding on my ability to handle this time.

Will I be able to keep up with writing during this time? Maybe. Will I be able to keep to my self-imposed deadlines? Gods, I hope so. I have been having a tendency to nudge my deadlines back a week or two at a time when I get stuck, and I know that’s going to bite me in the ass sooner rather than later. At least I’m 1/3 of the way through the latest novel, with one more novel after, then it’s a string of novellas that I’ve got lined up. Those tend to go rather quickly.

I have a couple of embroidery commissions in the works, plus at least one for-fun project, but none of those have 100% set timelines yet (and one doesn’t even have a design or materials yet). So I am putting the stitching on a back burner until A – I have my latest deadline met (or beaten) or B – One of the embroidery deadlines moves up before one or more of the writing WIPs.

I’m enjoying my current WIP, but I’ll be glad to have it done next month and be back to the Abnormalverse. I think I’ll reread the second and third books to refresh me, plus all my copious notes for Book 4, before I dive back in. I want to be sure I don’t write in someone who’s dead or magically reattach a vaporized limb or something stupid like that. Continuity is a thing, after all.

Well, time to finish getting ready. Off I go into the wild.

Let’s hope I don’t get eaten.